Kant’s Dissertation for the Master’s Degree On Fire and the Transformations of his Ideas of Ethereal MatterAbstract
Kant’s dissertation for the Master’s degree Succinct Exposition of Some Meditations on Fire was written in Latin in 1755 as a sample (specimen) preceding a Master’s exam, but its first printing did not appear until 1838. What is the relevance of this Master’s dissertation for historical and philosophical studies? To answer this question I analyse the structure and give a brief summary of the dissertation, look at the history of its writing and try to identify the place of this work among Kant’s other papers on natural philosophy. I then demonstrate that Kant’s concept of ether as an elastic matter of fire, heat and light containing the forces of attraction and repulsion originates in the dissertation On Fire. I identify the provisions in Kant’s early works which he later develops in the Master’s dissertation and establish continuity between the text of On Fire and the so-called Physical Monadology, draw parallels between the ideas enunciated by Kant in his first dissertation and the interpretation of ether in the printed works that followed. Finally, I put forward the hypothesis of the heuristic potential of the On Fire treatise for the analysis of Kant’s manuscript legacy. Perhaps this dissertation will enable researchers to clear up some tangled propositions in Kant’s Opus Postumum. However, a series of further studies is needed to verify the hypothesis.